The Soul of John Black is a band led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter John "JB" Bigham; other members include bassist Shawn Davis, keyboardist Adam McDougal, and percussionist Davey Chegwidden. Turntablist DJ Phizz Ed contributes some added aural embellishment as well.
The Soul of John Black sometimes sound as if they're channeling the same ancestral ghosts as Otis Taylor—their lyric themes tend toward the dark and brooding, and there are plenty of echoes of pre-blues forms such as field hollers and Negro spirituals, as well as more modern R&B, soul, and rock influences, in the music. Bigham's leathery voice is the perfect vehicle for his lyrics, which are emotionally riveting and refreshingly devoid of cliché. He fearlessly confronts even the darkest themes (I Got Work straddles the line between obsessive desire and rapacious lust), but he's just as capable of good-timey high jinks (as on the playfully bayou-scented Swamp Thang).
Fire Blues recalls Al Green in its meandering melody line and its fusion of erotic and spiritual hunger, as well as in Black's throaty croon; The Hole and the countryish One Hit combine melodic and harmonic ideas drawn from the folk tradition with contemporary pop and R&B. Feelin's grafts funk, lilting reggae, and rootsy close-harmony quartet singing onto a modified Diddley beat.
Although occasionally they miss the mark (Deez Blues, a burlesque of jug band tomfoolery, smothers under its own self-consciousness; the rocked-out title tune is oddly unimaginative, both lyrically and musically), Bigham and his aggregation are blessed with admirable vision and ambition. More a "singer-songwriter" than a straightforward bluesman, Bigham is actually a modern-day songster, capable of grafting myriad muses and influences onto a personalized style that both embraces and transcends the blues tradition.